Lowndes loses out for Adelaide ALMS race

V8 Supercar star Craig Lowndes may be forced out of the Panoz American Le Mans Series team for the season finale on New Year's Eve in Adelaide

Lowndes loses out for Adelaide ALMS race

Lowndes was confirmed to share a Panoz LMP-1 with Mark Noske in August. But following the announcement last week that Lowndes is to quit the crack Holden Racing Team, there is now some dispute as to whether the Queensland-based triple V8 champion will be allowed to race in Adelaide.

Lowndes will leave the works Holden outfit after the FAI 1000-mile race at Bathurst on 19 November, but his contract does not end until the end of the year.

"I was given permission at the time to do the Adelaide race, but that has now changed," said Lowndes. "My contract actually runs out on December 31, and at present the team will not give me permission to do the event, despite the fact I am leaving anyway.

"I am really disappointed because I was really looking forward to this race. It has always been a dream of mine to one day race in the Le Mans 24 Hour and this race was a great stepping stone to try to achieve that dream. I am also upset for all my fans in Adelaide who were looking forward to seeing me race a Le Mans car."

Lowndes has major celebrity status within Australia and his absence from the antipodean street race could affect the box office appeal of the event. Ex-HRT driver Greg Murphy will replace Lowndes in the Panoz team.

Murphy has previously raced in the Le Mans 24 Hour race in a GT Porsche in 1996 where he finished 2nd in his class. The Melbourne-based kiwi is also a reigning Bathurst winner, having won last year with Steven Richards.

"To drive the Panoz is a fantastic opportunity," said Murphy, "but it is a real pity that Craig can't join us. Having raced at Le Mans before, I am very excited at this opportunity. Mark and I are hoping to test the car after Bathurst and I can't wait to race the car on New Year's Eve."

Le Mans Adelaide Managing Director, Dean Rainsford, expressed disappointment for Lowndes.

"This event was going to be a fantastic chance for Craig to show his talents on the world stage," he said. "The situation is very disappointing and I fail to see how anybody actually gains from this - especially Craig. Mark and Greg will do a fantastic job but it would be great to see all three guys in the car. I hope we may eventually see a positive outcome from this situation."

Both Murphy and Noske will race at Bathurst next week in the FAI 1000, with Murphy in a K-Mart V8 Supercar and Noske with the Prancing Horse Ferrari squad in the final round of the Nation's Cup Championship.

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